Dotty’s List: Navigating the Judges — 2016 Primaries
Dotty’s List: Navigating through Justice — 2016 Primaries
There are a lot of decisions that you must make on your 2016 ballot.
Illinois voters have the awesome responsibility to vote for the US President, US IL Senator, Delegates for the National Nominating Committees, Ward Committeemen, Judges and in some areas, referendums.
I’m here to provide some guidance about navigating the judicial section of your ballot. We are more than likely to encounter a judge than any of the other elected officials on our ballots. We have a duty to vote for smart, fair judges with good temperaments who are compassionate servants of the community.
If you walk into your voting booth uninformed about those on your ballot, your voting experience will definitely feel like you’re taking an unfair pop quiz. I mean, really, who are most of these people?!
First things first, I encourage you to visit the website of your local voting authority and upload the sample ballot from your district. This will let you know who will appear on your ballot and who you will vote. Research the candidates before you go into the ballot to cast your vote because there are too many important issues pending in our city and county to simply vote blindly.
We live in a democracy which means our leadership is chosen by the people.
Understanding the Judicial Evaluations
Most Bar Associations issue their own judicial ratings for the candidates. The Chicago Bar Association has a separate evaluation process for the judicial candidates and they issue their ratings on their website. A special association, the Alliance Bar Associations for Judicial Screening*, which comprises 11 local and state bar associations, joins forces to evaluate the judicial candidates as well. Historically, the latter alliance was formed to ensure and promote diversity in judicial screening. Both processes involve judicial candidates applying via a standard application asking extensive questions about their legal career, personal life and health. The candidates’ applications are then reviewed and investigated by the evaluating committee. The candidates then face a group interview with their fellow attorney colleagues who issue their ratings based on established criteria, like temperament, knowledge, bias, etc. Every member Bar Association has their own set criteria for rating a candidate. If you look at the Illinois State Bar Association’s published judicial ratings and compare them to the Cook County Bar Association’s published judicial ratings, you will see that they disagree on certain candidates. Again, that contrasting recommendation won’t help the average person. It actually is quite confusing especially when you don’t “know” the candidate!
It is to be noted that some judicial candidates opt out of the evaluation process for various reasons. Voters should evaluate those candidates on a case-by-case basis as each candidates reasoning is different. Even though the intent is to help the voters vote for qualified judges, this rating method does not completely help the average person. For example, typically, judicial candidates who have been practicing law for less than 10 years are automatically given a rating of “Not Recommended” by some Bar Associations. So, many who don’t meet this criteria, decide NOT to apply for evaluations because they will be granted a “Not Recommended” despite their experience or potential individual contribution to the bench. In addition, these published rating lists won’t give you guidance on who to select in contested races. The evaluations are specific to the candidates and are not partisan. Example, if you have two candidates, running against each other who both received ratings of “Recommended”, then who should get your vote when you don’t know either? Ultimately, what many voters tend to do is a) vote for no one or b) blindly vote for one of the candidates.
Here are links to judicial evaluations by some of the bar associations.
In Illinois, judges are either appointed to the bench by the Illinois Supreme Court, elected by the people or the candidates apply directly to a process to become an associate judge. It is not uncommon for appointed judges to seek election to the bench in the next election cycle to secure their seats. An elected judge benefits from a higher salary and longer term in Illinois.
Judges are elected for countywide or sub-circuit seats. Countywide judges are selected by the voters of the whole county. For judicial elections, Cook County is divided into smaller areas called, sub-circuits. The 15 sub-circuits are geographical areas within Cook County. Sub-circuit candidates must reside within the geographic boundaries of their sub-circuit, and they are selected by the voters of that sub-circuit only. Once elected into office, both County and Sub-circuit elected judges have the same power and can be placed in any division within the Circuit Court. Historically, being smaller election districts, the sub-circuits were created for the sole purpose of establishing more diversity within the judiciary allowing the people to vote in candidates that represent their respective communities.
Slated by the Democratic Party & Endorsements by the Newspapers
When candidates indicate that they are slated by the democratic party, that means that they are endorsed, supported and in some instances recruited, for their office in support of the mission of the Democratic Party. The newspapers interview and endorse the candidate based on their interview.
Selecting and endorsing candidates for the judicial races were tough this year. There are many contested races where I personally know more than one candidate. I would endorse these people individually if they were not running against each other. I endorse and support candidates that I know personally and have encountered while working as a practicing attorney. However, my goal is to help you navigate your ballot so that you can make a better informed decision about the judicial candidates at the poll. When I was compiling this blog, I had to do a lot of research. Information is out there online. So, I encourage you to click on their websites and do further research for yourself.
Judge of the Circuit Court (Vacancy of Biebel, Jr.)
I don’t necessarily have to endorse him because he is running unopposed countywide. However, I want to acknowledge and endorse Judge Lyke because I know him personally and I find him to be an authentic servant to the community. He was recently appointed as a full Circuit Judge. He is a former Assistant State’s Attorney and private Criminal Defense attorney. He will serve as an excellent judge.
My support of Judge Conlon is strictly based off of my experience as a practicing attorney. When I appeared before her on a personal injury case where I represented the defendant, I found her to be knowledgeable of the law, fair to both parties and she possessed a pleasant temperament.
I am supporting Judge Schoop based on his commitment to service off the bench. He is well known for donating his time to tutor law students about complicated legal commercial subjects at his alma mater. His work with the students demonstrates his knowledge of the law as well as his spirit of service. I became aware of his service before he was appointed as a full circuit judge and I concluded that he was a public servant at heart and would make a fine judge.
Judge of the Circuit Court (Vacancy of Ruscitti Grussel)
Monica M. Torres-Linares
Attorney Torres-Linares and I both sit on a non-profit board together. She is a committed community servant and I’m sure she’ll serve as a fine judge.
I knew Judge Bates personally prior to his recent appointment to the bench. He is a past president of the Cook County Bar Association and has served as one of my personal mentors and advisors. He is smart, hardworking and possesses a great temperament. He is an excellent judge and is worthy of your vote on election day.
Judge Simpkins was recently appointed to the bench. He is now seeking your vote to serve as a countywide elected official. Judge Simpkins is active in the community, the Bar and has the support of many of his colleagues.
Attorney Copland is the principal of a boutique law firm concentrating primarily in Family law. This is her first run as a judicial candidate. I have found her to be sharp and she possess a pleasant demeanor based on our various interactions.
Judge Murray is very active within the Bar and is a past president of the Cook County Bar Association. He is highly respected and regarded by his peers. Judge Murray is a long time resident of the 5th Sub-circuit and has served on the bench as an associate judge for several terms. He also holds a national office with the National Bar Association as the President of the Judicial Council.
Attorney Jones has a history of public service. Not only is he a former military man, but he also served as an Assistant State’s Attorney and worked for Cook County as an attorney. In my opinion, he has the experience and temperament to serve the community and I believe he would be a fine judge.
Judge Schofner was recently appointed to the bench. She is highly respected by her peers, experienced and has a great temperament. I believe she will continue to be a great choice serving on the bench as a member of the judiciary.
Judge Lyle is running unopposed. As a former alderman and past president of the Cook County Bar Association, she is highly regarded within the Bar and continues her service to the public through the judiciary.
Judge, 7th Sub-circuit (Vacancy of Rivkin-Carothers)
Jennifer Ballard — http://jenniferballardforjudge.com/
Attorney Ballard is running to serve her community as a judge in the 7th sub-circuit. She currently is a partner at a national law firm here in Chicago. When we briefly discussed her decision to run for judge, her dedication and compassion for the community were apparent as she explained her reasoning. Her hard work is evident as she travels all across the sub-circuit working to earn the vote of her constituents. It is my opinion that Attorney Ballard will make a great judge. She is the Democratic endorsed candidate for this race.
Attorney John is an experienced attorney also running for judge in the 7th sub-circuit. Currently, he’s an attorney working at a high profile family law practice. In addition to his experience, it is my opinion that he has a great temperament and I believe he will serve as a fine judge.
GET OUT TO VOTE!
As I mentioned earlier, there are 15 sub-circuits in the county of Cook. This blog only provides recommendations and brief information on the sub-circuits mentioned. I encourage you to do your own research about the judicial candidates on the ballot and vote after you make an informed decision. This blog should only be a start in your research! The goal in all of this is for YOU to make informed decisions! Good luck to all the candidates and happy voting!
*The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening is comprised of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Chicago Area (AABA), Black Women’s Lawyers Association of Greater Chicago (BWLA), Chicago Council of Lawyers (CCL), Cook County Bar Association (CCBA), Decalogue Society of Lawyers (DSL), Hellenic Bar Association (HBA), Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois (HLAI), Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA), Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago (LAGBAC), Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois (PRBA), and Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI), working collaboratively to improve the process of screening judicial candidates in Cook County, Illinois.